Posts Tagged ‘Paul Westerberg’

Yesterday marked 17 years since my life ‘turned on a dime’, getting diagnosed with cancer. As time rolls on, the less and less I hang onto that day; but the gratitude for recovery never leaves. So on occasion, I try to share a little piece of my story with the humble hope that, even in the smallest way, it helps someone, somewhere, going through their own tough battles. Aside from faith and family, songs are my refuge. It has always been my place to celebrate all I love in this world and my escape and defense mechanism against everything I find wrong with it.

About 8 months into my unexpected journey –- immediate surgery, weeks of radiation, losing 50 pounds, constant pain & nausea, lack of sleep and a tremendous amount of anxiety — a disciplined nightly exercise routine, set to a continuous soundtrack of music (“The List”), had finally started to have positive effects for me physically. But mentally and emotionally I was still struggling and needed some confidence against the uncertainties life now presented. That is when God’s grace again pointed me to a music piece critical in my recovery – Paul Westerberg’s Stereo/Mono. Westerberg (aka Grandpaboy) and The Replacements had always been my ‘go-to’ rock-n-roll inspiration representing the beautiful-struggle that comes with doing things your own way. The Good Lord apparently must have nudged the former ‘Mats front-man to release not only a new record, but a double-record at that – perfect timing and exactly what I needed for a little ‘attitude’ as I adjusted back into the world.

I know as an adult the term ‘attitude’ can seem sophomoric. But believe me, the first time life awakens you from the carefree invincibility of youth and you realize life truly has a beginning and an end, no exceptions, including for yourself, you are exposed to an unsettling new vulnerability that never leaves. Acceptance was absolutely necessary for coming to terms with this fact, but adopting a slightly defiant mindset helped me more convincingly begin to work through the onslaught of fears and doubts that came with everything I experienced, and spurred me to continue to move forward. Stereo/Mono contains 25 songs and I could post any one of them because they are all important to me, but this reflective track pretty much summarizes it best . . .

The only real positive benefit for fans when a great band breaks up is often times the members splinter off and form their own bands or become solo artists. You now have exponentially more music to discover and listen to. In the case of The Replacements, Paul Westerberg continued as one of my favorites with his solo releases, plus as his musical alter-ego, Grandpaboy. Tommy Stinson, who was the real spark plug and energy of the ‘Mats, formed a couple short-lived bands, Bash & Pop and Perfect. Fortunately, his post-Replacements bands left behind some catchy, guitar-driven rock tracks in their wake before Tommy went on to join Guns ‘N Roses and Soul Asylum as bass player.

“Never Aim To Please” is the first track on Bash & Pop’s lone release Friday Night Is Killing Me. Right off the bat, Stinson and Company give you the best of what the band  has to offer — straight-forward, Stones-influenced guitar-riff rock with Stinson’s take-me-as-I-am attitude and lyrics. After so many years playing together with master songwriter and wordsmith Westerberg, Tommy naturally picks up and creates his own style of lyrical cleverness which is present throughout the entire 1993 release. Steve Foley, who replaced original drummer Chris Mars on the last ‘Mats tour, does a great job of lying down a tight back beat on drums.

I have heard it said before, if you look up the definition of rock-n-roll in the dictionary, a picture of Tommy Stinson will be there. I would have to agree and “Never Aim to Please” is one of the reasons why. Stinson also released a couple strong solo efforts in 2004 (Village Gorilla Head)  and 2011 (One Man Mutiny) which showcase his growth as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. Also be sure to check out the great session work Stinson and drummer  Josh Freese provided as rhythm section ‘hired guns’ for alternative band MOTH on their 2002 release Provisions, Fiction and Gear.

Interestingly (or maybe not), I had the opportunity to open up for Bash & Pop when they came through Cleveland on tour in 1992 prior to their debut release. I played drums for an alternative band NOTHING LIKE VAUDEVILLE and we played and hosted several Musicians Nights at Flash’s Concert Club, which was a popular venue and has since been torn down. The Club Manager asked us to open for some national acts, so we played on same bill as Tool in their very early days, plus Course of Empire, a cool band out of Dallas, TX featuring two drummers. When we were asked to open for Bash & Pop, it was decided by our lead guitarist/songwriter that musically it was not a good fit and declined the offer.  He was probably right the audience would have watched us with their heads tilted sideways in wonderment, but that was not uncommon for our band anyways. Turning it down was mind-boggling since the ‘Mats were a huge influence on me. I always joked with my former band mate that I could never forgive him.

 

Soul Asylum originated from the same Minneapolis music scene that thankfully gave us The Replacements and Husker Du in the 80’s. While Dave Pirner & Company did not have had the same overall musical influence as Bob Mould and Paul Westerberg did with their respective bands, Soul Asylum definitely has been more commercially successful.  Their 1992 release GRAVE DANCERS UNION marched up the charts with hits ‘Somebody to Shove’ and ‘Black Gold’,  and then exploded with ‘Runaway Train’  which led to a Grammy for the modern-rock band.

Despite their multi-platinum success in 1992/1993, GREAT SONGS NEVER  DIE has to fast-forward a bit to the track ‘Just Like Anyone’  from their 1995 release LET YOUR DIM LIGHT SHINE. The energy and attitude of this hard-driving song captures Soul Asylum at the top of their game. The entire release has such a full and warm sound. I think Sterling Campbell on drums made a huge difference bringing a solid foundation to the band. Plus, Butch Vig with his outstanding production. [Butch is drummer for the band Garbage and produced Nirvana’s mega-seller NEVERMIND].

Accented drum hits, open hi-hats time-keeping, and guitar support the verses of ‘Just Like Anyone’  leaving you on edge just waiting for the chorus to kick in. Take a deep breath if you want to sing along because Pirner does not pause during the chorus as he tells the elegant story of a girl in an outhouse contemplating life. Using a series of homophones, the lyrics continually push the song forward along with the late Karl Mueller’s great bass line that closely mirrors the vocal melody and phrasing.

The band is still making music having released a new studio effort, DELAYED REACTION, this past summer. Unfortunately, guitarist Dan Murphy, who has been will the band since 1983, recently announced he was leaving the band. Also be sure to check out their 2006 release THE SILVER LINING with ‘Bus Named Desire’, ‘Lately’, and ‘Good For You’ as the stand-out tunes; plus their more recent DELAY REACTION in 2012 and my favorite track ‘Pipe Dream’.